A Guide To Preparing Your Day
We need to plan and prepare. It is good when we have a game plan—If we don’t, then we will fumble on the field. We can’t have an event without all of the details in place or it will be chaos! Even though most of us know this, we often forget to do this where it matters most: our daily lives. When we get up in the morning without a clear plan, then it sets us up to fail.
We set goals. We want to do something every day, like tasks and habits and prioritizations. But if we don’t do things with purpose, our goals won’t be reached. The best way to avoid days that are both hectic and unproductive is to plan them. This article will tell you how. Daily planning only takes 10-15 minutes, but the strategies are worth exploring in full.
You should make a habit of planning ahead. Sometimes you will feel motivated and want to make a list for your day. But sometimes you won’t feel like it, or you might be tired or bored from school. You should still do it anyway, even if you don’t feel like it at the time.
To help set this habit in stone, set an alarm for your daily planning. Do this in the morning. To further make the habit stick, bundle it with an existing habit like drinking coffee or listening to music.
Habits are easier to build when you see the results further on in the day. Planning your day is a good habit because it will help you feel more organized, focused, and motivated. If you have trouble building this habit, try doing it on weekends too.
Here are some helpful hints for planning your day:
Make your to-do list so that it includes things you want to do. If you want to plan, then make sure that the tasks on your list are aligned with what you are trying to achieve. For example, if you can’t stand following up on social media but want to plan for it anyway, plan to listen to music or grab a bite to eat in tandem with this tedious task.
Try breaking down your big goals into smaller, bit-size tasks. For example, you can’t just write “lead generation” on your to do list and think that will happen. But you can write “spend 30 minutes on my blog every day” or “proofread my weekly email.” Make sure to review your personal and professional goals when you make your daily plan and add tasks that help with those larger goals.
If you have more than 5 daily goals, you are probably over-extending yourself. It’s healthy to come up with a short list of priority tasks you want to get accomplished by the end of the day. But adding too many is setting yourself up for burnout. It can be tiring, and lead to not being able to make progress in what is really important to you. Try completing a commitment inventory so that it becomes easier for you to figure out which of your goals are most important.
Plan your day by thinking about the whole week. You may have different goals and you can only work so many hours. It is okay to do some tasks every day, but others just need a few days of work. Planning ahead for the entire week at the start of the week is a good way to effectively delegate the big tasks you might have.
Add your have-to-do tasks last. People usually start with their appointments and work backwards. Instead, you should do the things that people want to do first like goal tasks and then add in the other stuff.
In an ideal world, we would only do things that are good for us. But in reality, there are some things that are not helpful for us. We have to do these things too. When faced with a task you don’t want to do, be comfortable saying “no.” And when you are faced with something that simply needs to be done, then just do it.
Choose one thing each day that is the most important. If you finish this one thing, then it will be a good day. Every day, choose one activity from your priority tasks and put it in your calendar. You can do this with each day on a longer time scale. If you do 5-7 big tasks per week, it’ll make you feel even more productive. When you select and finish one thing as a priority, the day will feel like a real accomplishment.
Planning your day is important. You can make it happen by using a productivity method. There are many different types of productivity methods you can choose from, below we list some of the most popular ones and how to use them for daily planning. Find one that works for you, or mix and match to create your own.
Eat the Frog: This is a great way to start your day and do an important task. Find the hardest, or most difficult task of the day, and do it first. This will make you less likely to procrastinate on other tasks in your day.
The Pomodoro Technique is a good way to do work as well. It is best for people who enjoy short focused work with frequent breaks. The Pomodoro Technique was made by a student in the late 1980s who had trouble studying. He used a timer shaped like a tomato and used it for 10 minutes of study with frequent breaks.
The steps are as follows: First, start a timer for 25 minutes and focus on one task. When the timer rings, take a 5 minute break. After you finish four intervals (or “pomodori”), take a longer break of 20-30 minutes.
Plan your day with the Pomodoro technique. Estimate how many 25-minute work sessions you will need to complete each task on your list. This method forces you to consider how long your work will take and plan accordingly. You can use this for your entire day, or just use it for one of the tasks on your list.
Split your day into blocks of time. If you know how long something will take, then make sure to set aside that amount of time for it. You can do this by splitting the day into sections (for example 9:30 AM – 11:30 AM) or giving each task a certain block of time (for example “Morning”) depending on how long it might take.
Plan to make changes to your schedule throughout the day. You might need to make quick alterations as you go through your list. With time, you will understand how long one task takes and know how much time is needed for the next task. For now, considering doubling the amount of time you think it will take to finish your tasks.
The Eisenhower Matrix helps people find the important and urgent tasks. You can then do them on your to-do list, or break them down into 4 boxes with different rules for each box.
[Illustration of the Eisenhower Matrix]
In time, this process will become a habit and you will naturally make a list of “Urgent and Important” and “Non-Urgent and Important” tasks.
Planning is important to do every day. You have to find the right tools for you. There are many options, but it is best to choose what works for you.
A digital task manager is a great choice for people who are tech-savvy and want to keep their work in one place. All of your tasks can be on your phone or tablet. You can move the tasks around as you need them and you will know what you have done.
A note-taking app: If you don’t want a full task manager, but still want something digital to help you with your tasks, consider less-specialized tools that you use in your day-to-day work and home life. Consider Word or Excel, or an app specifically for taking notes like OneNote or Evernote.
A calendar: Many people use a calendar to plan their day. You can have appointments, meetings, and events with your tasks on the same calendar. It is great for productivity methods like time blocking. Web or mobile calendars make it easy to take them on the go.
A planner is what you need if you like to use paper and pen. You can make your own or buy one. Be careful, though, not to use post-it notes or loose pieces of paper; they don’t help you remember things in the future.
You do not need to choose between digital and paper tools for daily planning. You can use both or any combination of the methods mentioned.
Sticking To The Plan
As they say, “The best laid plans oft go astray”. Sometimes we drift off task, distracted by things like Twitter memes or shopping online. Our managers or teammates might ask us to do something else which can take up time and make it difficult for us to focus on what we were doing before. This leads us to think that daily planning doesn’t work and there is no point in being focused when working each day. But this couldn’t be farther from the truth! Here are some ways to keep on track throughout the day.
Try to avoid distractions if you want to focus on your work. Close all of your open programs so that you don’t have too many tabs open. Turn off your phone and notifications so that they doesn’t distract you either. Try a website blocking extension if you find the urge to visit social media websites too strong.
Track your time. This way, you can see what you do with your time and if it is productive or not. You might want to set a goal for the amount of time you will be productive each day. Then track this throughout the day to make sure that you are meeting your goal.
Try an hourly check-in schedule. Set your phone or computer to ring every hour. When it rings, take a deep breath and think about what you did in the last hour. Look at your calendar for the next hour and plan what you are going to do. This will help you better manage your day each hour.
Readjust: Sometimes you have to do something that you didn’t plan for, and that is okay. But it can be difficult when you try to do this new thing without changing what you planned for before. It is better if the new thing becomes part of your plan for the day. When you have an unexpected task, take some time to readjust your plan so that it includes the new thing too. Then, work on what’s in your new plan instead of what was in your old one.
[Example of an original plan vs a revised plan]
Conquer them all: You’ve probably heard of “Inbox Zero”, where the goal of the day is to get to zero emails in your inbox. Try “To-do List Zero”, where there are no tasks left at the end of the day. If there are a few tasks left, that’s okay because it gives you time to think about what you are doing and restructure how you are working.
Reflect often. Make sure your day-planning process is working. It can be helpful to take time every so often, like during your weekly review, to think about whether it is working or not. Ask yourself if your days are calm and intentional or stressful and haphazard. Were you able to complete all your daily planning sessions? Did you feel accomplished at the end of most days? Did you meet your long-term goals on time? Were there any productive days that made up for a day with no accomplishments?
Planning your day can be a fantastic way to have a more productive and less stressful workday. By visualizing the tasks you want to complete before starting, you’ll feel much better about tackling them when they come up. Not only will this help get things done faster, but it will also give you time for other activities during your busy schedule.